Equine assisted psychotherapy and learning
Equine assisted psychotherapy and learning is an experiential therapy and learning process which is helpful for a wide range of issues. The EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) model does not involve any horse riding and does not require any knowledge or equestrian skills on the part of the client. Therapy is facilitated by a team including a mental health professional, an equestrian specialist and horses. This team remain present throughout every session facilitating the best therapeutic opportunities and maintaining safety. Of course the focus of therapy is on the client's process and in particular as it evolves during interaction and in relationship with the horses.
Equine assisted psychotherapy is suitable for people of all ages working either individually or in groups. Examples of common issues it can help with are: anxiety, depression, confidence, self-worth, relationship difficulties, family problems, trauma, post traumatic stress disorder, autism, obesity and bereavement. Equine assisted psychotherapy addresses deeper issues and facilitates a process through a series of sessions, each session building on the one before. Following an assessment and agreed upon goals, carefully selected tasks based on the client's needs are chosen by the therapist and equine specialist and the client is invited to participate. Clients are invited to share some of their experiencing as they wish but this is not essential to the process. Experiential means doing rather than simply talking about difficulties and offers an alternative to traditional talking therapies.
Equine assisted learning facilitates social skills such as communication, empathy, confidence building, assertiveness, listening, problem-solving and working as a team. It is suitable for all ages and is great for corporate team building, adolescent social skill development, people with special needs such as autism, learning disabilities and those with dementia. Just as with equine assisted psychotherapy bespoke learning sessions are tailored to suit client needs and goals but the learning sessions are not intended for addressing deeper issues and if these arise support can be given to source the appropriate therapeutic intervention. Whether sessions are for learning or psychotherapy is clearly defined at the outset and client's choices are respected.
So what is it about horses that make them particularly good for this work? They respond in the moment giving immediate feedback, they are masters of body language and know how you feel even before you do. They challenge you to reflect upon your own behaviour providing excellent opportunities for problem solving and personal growth. With personalities of their own they offer ample opportunity for metaphor and facilitate working through issues arising in your everyday life. Working with a large powerful animal can facilitate confidence in your own ability to act and be in the world. Horses are also surprisingly supportive and accepting even if you struggle to accept yourself. Therapy and learning can be both challenging and fun!